If your company never needs to converse in a foreign language you’d be forgiven for thinking there’s no benefit in employing a bilingual but now one new study is suggesting otherwise.
The study, conducted jointly by Northwestern University and the University of Houston, found that bilinguals often think faster and are more productive – even in roles that don’t require them to utilize their second language.
Participants in the study were asked to pair an English word with its matching illustration while hooked up to an MRI machine that monitored their brains' blood flow - the results showed that bilinguals utilized fewer brain functions to make the correct connection and were able to do it with less effort.
"The bilingual has to lift more weight than the monolingual, because bilinguals experience competition within and between both their languages while listening to speech," the researchers told Live Science. "But the bilingual is also stronger, because they've been mentally 'working out' like this for their whole life."
According to the researchers, bilinguals are more adept at blocking out unnecessary, confusing, or distracting signifiers. As a result, they have sharper thinking skills and are more adept at multi-tasking.
More like this:
Top tips for hiring employees from abroad
Specialized knowledge workers grapple with major changes
HR looking for candidates in all the wrong places?